The United Nations may indeed be the answer, as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy insist it is. But only if the question is ‘what is the most morally corrupt international organization in the world?’ Without argument the UN has degenerated into what esteemed journalist Claudia Rosett refers to as an institution mired in corruption, secrecy, venality and total lack of accountability.
That degree of ethical collapse might still be repairable, but only if the UN admits its errors. To date there are no signs of institutional remorse. In fact, the organization flouts its criminal actions in the face of the world, then wraps itself in sanctimonious platitudes in order to retain power. Given such an attitude there are few options left to the U.S. other than to demand top-down reform of the international body.
Demonstrating how disconnected the UN is from reality, Rosett notes that in a recent UN survey Secretary General Kofi Anan frets over ‘tone at the top,’ a reference to the ‘less positive’ opinion most UN staffers have of their senior leaders. The problem isn’t tone, she continues, but ‘accountability at the top’ (emphasis added). In detailed testimony provided to the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, Rosett elaborated at length the incredible web of corruption that defined and obscured the UN Oil for Food Program.
Oil for Food was in theory a program whereby Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, though under international UN embargo, could sell limited amounts of oil and in return use the funds generated to purchase needed commodities such as food and medical supplies for its population. It was established by December 1996 and continued under UN supervision until Coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein in last year.
As part of the search to find WMDs, links to terrorist organizations and other violations by the Saddam regime, extensive files were discovered that catalogued the Oil for Food Program. Saddam used Oil for Food as a way to circumvent economic sanctions, bring in prodigious amounts of money and lavish that money on himself and his cronies.
Along the way Saddam made certain that the right UN and complicit government pockets were well lined. For example, Kojo Anan, the Secretary-General’s son was in on the take as were government officials from Russia, China and France (surprise!). The UN administrator of the Oil for Fraud program, Benon Savan, reported directly to Kofi Anan and no one else. Even at this late date accounting and secrecy at the UN is so guarded that it cannot even officially verify the actual amount of money that went into the program. Anan’s figures are $111 billion, but that could easily be understated.
Tragically, little if any relief was afforded the Iraqi people as a result of Oil for Food. Infant mortality rates soared under the program. People lived in squalor and disease without potable water and electric power. Infrastructure decayed. Hospitals had no medicines and test equipment. Education spiraled downward. A potentially developed, sophisticated society was allowed to sink deeper and deeper into poverty, disease, terror and death while a corrupt dictator was propped up. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who strutted in palaces of gold and jewels while his people starved. Make no mistake; the UN was an accomplice to gross fraud with all its consequences. UN officials responsible for the Oil for Food program have the blood of tens of thousands of Iraqis on their hands.
Who in the UN? According to most observers the degree, scope and depth of corruption in the Oil for Food program is so extensive and pervasive that it is difficult to grasp. Rosett says that ‘had the UN deliberately set out to design a program opened to manipulation by Saddam Hussein’s regime, it is hard to think how the UN could have improved upon the arrangement that was put in place.’ In other words, this was no accident: the UN from the onset envisioned the Oil for Food program as a get-rich-quick program.
Okay, you might think, is skimming this money such a big deal? Well, yes, it was so big that this scam has been characterized as involving ‘staggering levels of corruption,’ with an estimated at $10 billion-plus in bribes, kickbacks and other payoffs to individuals and to governments. Anan’s Secretariat office alone collected more than $1.4 billion over the life of the program supposedly to monitor, audit and administer it, yet due to a UN policy of extreme secrecy there are no public records of the program.
It was not until Coalition forces cracked open the extraordinarily thorough files kept by Iraqi intelligence offices that the entire putrid deal was exposed to light. Names from the UN, France, Russia and China immediately were discovered. Again, the numbers were in the billions and billions of dollars. For economic basket cases like France and Russia, with a long history of corruption, Oil for Food must have been the golden goose in the desert.
Now the motivation for the intense lobbying to prevent Coalition enforcement of UN resolutions becomes clearer. All those Ministerial-level trips to Baghdad to assure Saddam that they would never permit the U.S. to topple him are explained. Forget about human rights or international law.
The fraud represented in the Oil for Food program, encouraged and virtually administered by the UN, gave Saddam funds to continue to procure missile technology from North Korea, pursue WMD research and development programs, and funnel money to his own thugs and terrorist groups like Ansar al-Islam, Islamic Jihad and suicide bombers. In short, the UN kept in power the very dictator they professed to condemn in the Security Council chambers.
The harsh truth is that any institution composed in majority by authoritarian, dictatorial governments – as the UN is – cannot be better than its component parts. The UN, like its predecessor the League of Nations, is an idealistic concept but a dysfunctional reality.
The leopard does not change its spots by changing its environment. Place it in a cathedral and it is still a predator. Neither do thugs and crooks from dictatorial nations reform simply by crossing over the threshold of the United Nations building. They are still dangerous characters who have no moral authority to lecture anyone.
The UN, far from promoting world peace and safeguarding human rights, has sunk to the level of accomplice if not perpetrator. Oil for Food is the tip of the iceberg, not the entirety. Virtually every so-called ‘peace keeping’ mission has turned sour because of ineptitude, cowardice and corruption. The UN record for human rights protection evaporated in such hell holes as Rwanda and the Balkans. The record of failure is long and shameful.
The solution is first to recognize that the UN is a failed institution. Instead of American politicians talking about subverting American sovereignty in defense, military and economic matters to this pit of corruption, they ought to be demanding accountability on behalf of our citizens and taxpayers. The most effective way to do convince people of UN failure is through investigation, disclosure and transparency. Once the shocking truth is revealed, the UN is unlikely to be able to continue to operate in its present form.
The time is long overdue to draw up an international organization whose membership is predicated on existence of a representative government. Euro-socialist states like France would still be members but would not be able to dominate. An institution of democracies would have infinitely greater moral credibility and fortitude than the money- and power-hungry collection of reprobates that now inhabits the buildings on Turtle Bay.